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C Spire Launches Pilot Program to Train Mississippi High Schoolers for Work in Tech

By Henry Kronk
February 08, 2019

Tech enthusiasts and numerous computer programming initiatives like to say that everyone can code. But one Mississippi pilot program is pushing the boundary of what that statement means. On Monday, twenty high schools and community colleges in the state announced that they had signed on to the C Spire Software Development Pathway Project. 

The coding program allows learners to start their forays into computer science in high school. 

The C Spire Software Development Pathway

C Spire, one of the world’s largest wireless internet provider, is headquartered in Ridgeland, Mississippi. They are joined on the initiative by Mississippi State University Center for Cyber Education. If successful, these learners will be able to go on to a one-year curriculum at a community college and earn an Associate’s Degree of Applied Sciences. 

The initiative is a public-private partnership between C Spire and the Mississippi State University Center for Cyber Education. It marks a continuation of C Spire’s Tech Movement initiative launched in 2017.

Over the weekend, forty-seven administrators, counselors, and teachers from 11 school districts and nine community colleges from around the state met in Ridgeland with state officials and C Spire team members.

“There is a lot of energy and enthusiasm to make this approach a success for our state,” said Shelly Hollis, assistant director of the MSU Research and Curriculum Unit’s Center for Cyber Education, in a release.  “We are using a creative, out-of-the-box approach to meet the real-world needs of students to land better jobs and for employers have more qualified workers now.”

The entities involved have agreed on a goal to increase qualified young coders who can work as entry-level software engineers by a factor of 93% over three years. 

Filling Mississippi’s Skills Gap

The first cohort of the pilot program will launch in the 2019-20 school year. C Spire has agreed to completely fund the first year and provide partial support for the following two. With a capacity of roughly 150, educators will begin the recruitment process later this month. 

“We live in a software-defined world where code and the internet influence every aspect of our lives,” said C Spire CIO Carla Lewis, in a release.  “Computer science, coding and software development drives innovation and creates jobs in our economy, but we need to do more now to encourage schools to offer courses, equip teachers and enable young people to develop these important skills so they can pursue these highly-sought IT careers.”

Base Camp Coding Academy provided the basic curriculum for the program. The educators who will run the program have will begin to adapt it for high school learners. Efforts are also underway to involve local businesses to provide shadowing or internship opportunities. 

According to C Spire, the initiative seeks to close the skills gap in its home state. ”These students will have an opportunity to receive quality education and training in a short, accelerated time frame with the ability to enter a critical field that businesses of all types and sizes need within one year of graduation.”

It’s unclear still what the C Spire program will deliver to students. It’s billed as a coding school that will teach “coding, project management, collaboration, and web design.”

But to highlight the need for programs like these, C Spire emphasizes that the average IT specialist makes over $69,000, which is over double the state’s median income. 

Glassdoor, on the other hand, puts the average IT specialist salary at $56,139 and $80,018 for software developers in the state.

Featured Image: Thomas Tastet, Unsplash.